Stereotyping Masculinity

During this week, we talked about masculinity and how it is typically seen by society. People often stereotype masculinity by how strong of a man someone is, how many sports they play, how often they go to the gym, etc. People think that the more “manly” things someone does, the more of a man they really are. We see men as “the protectors” of this world. We go to them to help kill a spider, walk us to our car late at night, and do yard work for us. Because of these stereotypes, women often are penalized, or held back, for not being manly. For example, me and my brother are the same age, and we both wanted to ride our bikes around the neighborhood, however, I wasn’t allowed because my parents did not want anything bad to happen to me and thought I would not be able to defend myself. My brother no the other hand was allowed to because he was a boy and they thought he would be able to handle himself if they needed him too. Although sometimes it might be true, society shouldn’t stereotype men for how “manly” they are. If a man is afraid of spiders, isn’t very strong, etc., we look at them like they are less of a man. We shouldn’t judge people on stereotypes. People shouldn’t be judged solely on their gender.

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16 thoughts on “Stereotyping Masculinity

  1. I agree with this post in the fact that society has a lot of different expectations and stereotypes for men and women. Just recently, I encountered this problem first hand over winter break. My brother works at a pizzeria and he is a delivery boy which means he delivers the pizza to houses. I asked him if they would hire me for that job, since I love driving and especially love pizza. I thought this would be a perfect job for me and a way to make good money and tips. My brother informed me that they do not hire girls as delivery people, because they are scared that something is going to happen to them. When he first told me that I was shocked, since that is a real life example of gender inequality. My brother told me that they do not want girls to get into situations while delivering to someone where they can not defend themselves. Overall, I thought that this was unjust and even though I am small and a situation like that would be bad for me, other girls can defend themselves and should not have this stereotype that will prevent them from getting a job.

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  2. I agree that people tend to be stereotyped based on their gender. For example, people will see a tall black man and assume that he plays basketball or is good at sports. I can relate to your story because my boy cousin and I are the same age, but growing up my parents would always say to him “look out for her.” It did not matter whether we were playing outside or going to the mall, I always felt like he was in charge of me even though we were the same age. It is not fair that just because he is more “manly” or “masculine” that he gets to have more power and control. This is something I never really thought about growing up, although now looking back I realize so much stereotyping that was all around me.

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  3. I too was told I could not do things because I was girl when I was younger. My parents basically scared me into thinking if I went outside then someone was going to snatch me because I was too dumb to think about what how I should handle myself. Literally every time I went outside, I was reminded that I had to be on the lookout because there was a big possibility that for the 2 minutes that my parents weren’t watching me, I would be taken. That’s sad to think about that as a little girl, I was scared into not going outside. I don’t live in the best neighborhood but there were always kids outside my age going to the park or riding their bike around the block while I was forced to stay inside because they were scared for my safety. I made a little friend, who was a boy, and I always envied him because he could down the block to the park where I could not go. But for some reason when I became friends with him, my parents would loosen the leash they had on me just a little by telling me that I could go around the block on my bike with him but that was not permitted when he wasn’t around. They treated me as if this boy (who I’d just recently met) could take care of me better than I could take care of myself. Which is weird because if anyone had truly come up to us, I probably would’ve been the one to react first. It made me feel like I wasn’t strong enough to handle myself. I think I’ve held on to that idea my whole life and now whenever I come off as “weak” I feel so disappointed with myself.

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  4. Belle, I fully agree with your post. As you know, we both went to an all-girls high school. We were taught to be strong and independent, and to provide for ourselves without the help of a man. Still, I feel that we were always seen as inferior when compared to our brother school, an all boys school. They were seen as a school that won every football championship and sent young men off to the most prestigious universities, a school that produced the stereotypical man. I feel that the young men that attended the school that didn’t live up to the school’s standards were judged and viewed as inept in being a successful man, just as us girls were. Just because these boys were not seen as manly enough, or us girls not being strong or forceful enough does not mean that we are incapable of being successful. I feel that it makes us more qualified and determined to be successful.

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  5. Personally, when I read your post, I immediately thought of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist idea. Personally, I’m terrified of spiders and I hate doing the yard work like cutting the grass and weed whacking. So if a guy wants to do these “manly” things, I’m 100% down for him to do that! But I think it’s important that if a female wants to do those things, she should be able to do them, no questions asked. Like you said, your parents allowed your brother to do things because he is male. I think that’s unfair since you wanted to do those things. I understand where parents come from in wanting to protect their daughters, but they shouldn’t hide them from experiences, specifically not allowing them to do things based on their sex.

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  6. I completely agree with you in saying that society should not hold preconceived notions about anybody simply because of their gender. In some ways I am also, as Roxanne Gay would say, a bad feminist, who is fine with letting a man do “men’s work” like yard work and killing spiders. Although I don’t have a biological brother like you, due to my dad’s recent remarriage I now have a step brother who’s really awesome. I now have more of an insight on masculinity stereotypes and slurs. When we go home, my dad insists on giving him a couple six packs to take back to his apartment, yet he says he could never do that for me because “I’m a girl” and his “little daughter”. My step brother was also shocked to find out I’m a car freak, because how could a girl be into cars??
    Women are definitely held back because of masculine and feminine stereotypes and the terms’ intersection with gender. And we see that this happens super early in life in Halberstam’s section about tomboyism when he says tomboyism “is quite common for girls and does not generally give rise to parental fears,” yet “cross-identification behaviors in boys do often give rise to quite hysterical responses, we tend to believe that female gender deviance is much more tolerated than male gender deviance”. My dad is the most accepting, least stereotypical person I know, but certain societal aspects of gender are so normalized, he doesn’t even realize that he might be playing into them.

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  7. I agree whole-heartedly that depicting masculinity through certain actions is invalid and not an accurate gauge identity. It’s become so common place to revert to gender roles for means of identification. However, with he ushering in of the new generation, we’re seeing much more inclusive measure being taken to determining identity and character traits. I can not gather a specific example but over the past decade we’ve seen such essential changes to our legislation and overall demeanor when it comes to identity and queer topics. I hope that one day gender roles will become more and more frugal and all personality and action traits will not be associated with gender. It’s a tall order and may have some drawbacks but, it might have quite the impact on how people interact and I’m curious to see what will come of it. Tying back in to your original message, I too, believe that topics such as masculinity should not be measured in actions that associate with gender roles. However, the beckons the question of how would you measure it. Maybe some food for thought?

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  8. I agree with you. Today too many people are being judged based off of their gender. People think that if a guy cares about what he looks like or gossips with his friends he’s a “girl”. Or if he doesn’t have big muscles he can be perceived as weak. Just because someone likes something that is stereotypical for the opposite gender doesn’t mean that they are any less of their gender. I can also relate to being perceived as people thinking I can’t handle myself. When I walk around late at night my parents would ask if I had my mace because they were worried I could be taken. But if I was a boy would my parents be as worried or even buy me mace at all.

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  9. After reading this post it made me really think about how much society creates that gender binary. Manly men HAVE to be strong and fearless while girly girls like shopping. Why is our society like this? I find it unfair. I also think that this stereotype we face everyday in the world causes people to be afraid to show who they really are. If a woman isn’t as girly as she is supposed to be when speaking in terms of the stereotype then she might ‘fake’ who she really is just to get by. This saddens me and I hope that one day this stereotype will be something we laugh at.

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  10. I agree! I attended a lecture by Michael Kimmel last Spring and he discussed not only the misguided socialization of men but the negative impact it can have on women. Kimmel briefly discusses that men are raised to impress other men through these stereotypical masculine traits, and women are just a trait for men to obtain. Men focus on impressing their friends, older brothers, fathers and other male authority figures. They cater to these men and in the process, neglect to learn how to value and respect any male outside of the gender norm, as well as value women as more than an object to impress other men.

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  11. I agree with you in this post. In my case, my brothers are actually younger than me yet my parents always say, “you boys need to look out for her,” when it should be my job to look out for them and guide them. When it comes to stereotyping masculinity, age does not have a strong hold over anything. Compared to my two younger brothers, I am still seen as “weak”, in need of protection and oblivious to danger. My younger brother is a freshman and is allowed to walk around town past 10 at night despite the fact that I wasn’t allowed to walk around past sundown. When I brought this up to my mom, she said that there was a double standard, that I am more prone to danger and that my brother wouldn’t be targeted and if he were, he would know how to react. Even now, my parents make me carry around mace at all times.

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    1. I completely agree with you, I have a younger brother as well, and he is able to do things that I wasn’t able to do at his age. My parents would only let me hang out with a boy I liked if it was in a group setting when I was his age, and now when the roles are reversed the rules aren’t the same. I brought this up to my parents as well, and they hardly had a reaction. So often brothers are looked at as the protector, or “the man of the house” when the father isn’t home. I am just as capable of looking after my family when my Dad isn’t home as my fourteen year old brother is. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that some people, men especially, see women as defenseless or not as powerful as men, therefore overlooking women just because of their gender.

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  12. I can totally relate to you and your situation of being held back because your parents thought you would not be able to defend yourself. Growing up with an older brother, I have experienced many times of being held back from doing something by my father because he felt I was not going to be able to handle myself even though my brother was able to do it when he was my age. The way our society views masculinity, really does hold back women in society because its assumed we can not stand up for ourselves or protect ourselves. Not believing a woman can do something because of the fear that she will not be able to do it, is the cause of masculinity. With this mindset, we are holding back girls during childhood and it obviously has life long effects. Newsflash, a woman can be more ‘masculine’ than a man.

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  13. I have always agreed with the point of girls being just as tough as guys. When I was graduating eighth grade my teacher told us that two male students would be picked to carry the flags into and out of the ceremony. I immediately shot my hand up and asked why a girl couldn’t carry the flag. My teacher, who was female, said that the boys were stronger and they didn’t want a girl to hurt herself while carrying the flag. I, along with a couple of my friends, argued with her about girls being as strong, if not stronger, than a majority of the boys in our class. Eventually we won the argument and the girls that wanted to carry the flag put their names in a hat along with the boys. It happened to be my name that got picked so I got to carry one flag while a male student carried the other.

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  14. I agree that society often forces male-bodied people to adopt the role of protector, which creates unfair expectations of male gender performance as powerful and emotionless and female gender performance as weak and emotional. Thankfully, from a very young age, I actually had a role model that counteracted society’s imposed social roles in the form of my aunt. Although in her younger days she was both a teacher and a nun, I’ve only ever known her as the strong but loving woman who runs her own farm, does woodcarving for fun, and would always tell my younger sibling and I to be who we wanted to be and never let society dictate what we could and couldn’t do. Despite having a female body and identifying as female, she always seemed to epitomize the best traits of masculinity. She, along with my parents, who let my younger sibling and me play with traditionally feminine toys but bizarrely wouldn’t let us go anywhere on our own until the end of high school despite perceiving us both as male, likely contributed to my very non-stereotypical view of gender.

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  15. I also experienced this growing up! My brother is only a few months older than I am (he was adopted), so often he was allowed to be out later or do things that I was not simply because he was a boy and it is safer to be a boy. I would argue with you that women are also penalized for being manly. Women are often ‘rewarded’ for working within the gender binary and penalized for working outside of it. I use the word rewarded lightly because often it may mean not being attacked or criticised. Over the summer Simone Biles had many people criticizing her body because she was not fitting into society’s standards for a ‘beautiful body’. Obviously she is incredibly strong and this feature is often associated with masculinity and part of why she was criticised by many. We see this with so many athletic women. I have so often heard people say that they don’t like a six pack on a woman or that women bodybuilders are ‘gross’. Obviously these are superficial examples but it’s just one way of showing that women often still have a hard time subverting these stereotypes and presenting as more masculine.

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